Before I say anything about the show so far, let me explain my policy with new TV shows. I give every new show 4 episodes to convince me that I should continue investing my time in watching (although we already know I'm committed to the entire first season for this project). I do this because my goodness are some pilots rough. Even shows that I've loved (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sleepy Hollow, and Firefly) have had weak showings in the opening episodes compared to the rest of the show. Writers figure things out. Characters settle down. Arcs develop. It just takes time to work everything out. I try to be mindful of that so while I might judge harshly sometimes, I'm open-minded about the awesomeness that is coming.
So with all of that in mind, let's jump in.
Before we tackle anything about this pilot and my feelings on pilots in general, I'm just going to put this out there. Man I feel old. In my head, 2000 when Gilmore Girls aired wasn't that long ago. Sure, I didn't have a cell phone and I spent an inordinate amount of time on AIM because I was a freshman in high school (and seriously, what else was I going to do?). However, 2000 feels fresh in my memory.
And then I watched this episode.
"Pilot" opens with Sixpence None the Richer's "There She Goes." I cannot remember the last time I heard that song (or any Sixpence None the Richer song) without it being played A) with irony or B) over the PA system at a Duane Reade. I dropped in the music video so that you can enjoy the glory that is the lead singer's pixie cut hair, shiny and yet starkly pale makeup with a red lip, choker, and metallic mesh top over a black camisole.
With the exception of the pixie cut, I'm pretty sure that I looked exactly like this wandering the halls of my Southern California high school in 2000.
So we're moving along through the opening scene and then we get a Macy Gray CD reference. Judge me all you want, but I loved the hell out of Macy Gray's "Why Didn't You Call Me" when it came out. I'd want my CD back too, Rory.
So enough about me feeling old about the song choices or the fact that the inn where Lorelai works has a paper book rather than computers to hold reservations. Let's get into the meat of the episode.
The basic set up seems to be that Lorelai has a brilliant daughter, Rory, who she had when she was 16. Lorelai has raised Rory as a single mother and is incredibly close with her daughter. Lorelai has ambitions to open an inn of her own and send her daughter off to the best schools (and eventually land her a spot at Harvard). Rory is sharply intelligent and a bookworm which already endears me to her. So far, so good.
Where I'm hoping that the show develops in interesting ways rather than taking us down the usual path is in the relationship between Lorelai and her parents. They've been mostly estranged because of their disappointment in her early pregnancy and her insistence that she will make her own way in the world. But when Rory gets into the prestigious prep school Chilton, Lorelai has to humble herself and ask for financial help for tuition. Naturally her mother uses this as an opportunity to blackmail her wayward daughter into family dinners. The mother wants to be involved in her life, and while this might be a simple request we're led to believe that it's not quite so easy as that.
My hope is that this show will not take the predictable route of making the wise yet emotionally manipulative mother the reason that Lorelai reconciles with her parents. There were several quite awkward moments that played well (including Rory sitting at the dinner table with her grandfather as they listen to Lorelai and her mother fight in the kitchen) to show how the reality of this extended family isn't a happy one. Also, please give Lorelai's father some more characterization other than being the disengaged, wealthy father who shows his apathy by sitting on the couch and reading the newspaper while his female kin dukes it out passive aggressively across the room. Same goes for the cold, seemingly perfect mother. If this is as smart a show as everyone assures me it is, I have no doubt that we're going to be peeling back layers soon enough.
Book Nerd Moments
Madame Bovary, Moby Dick, Jack Kerouac
Pop Culture References
Rosemary's Baby, Mommy Dearest
Julia Feels Old Moment
Sixpence None the Richer, Macy Gray references
"People are particularly stupid today. I cannot talk to them." -Michel
"Oh, hey..." Moment
Melissa McCarthy's in this show. I didn't know that.
-Rock on, there's a Korean BFF! It's not a leading role, but let's hear it for some representation of Asians on TV in a positive light.
-Michel is my standout favorite part of the show so far. Apparently all it takes is a snippy, rude Frenchman to make me happy. I would gladly watch a half hour show of just him insulting people.
-Melissa McCarthy's character is a disaster of clumsy cliches, but I did enjoy the beautiful choreography of her staff cleaning up or quite literally putting out the fires after her.
-Does anyone look really good in knit beanies? I would posit no...
-Maybe less with the slutty mom jokes. I'm hoping that the writers assume the audience has gotten enough of the, "Hey, Lorelai got knocked up when she was 16," message and will stop with the self-deprecating slut shaming. Clearly this woman does not have loose sexual morals, and even if she does I really don't care. Is she a good mom to her daughter? Looks like it so far.
-Who is this Dean character and why does he look 24 to Alexis Bledel's 16? *glares suspiciously*
"The Lorelais' First Day at Chilton"
"The Lorelais' First Day at Chilton" focuses on what I assume will be a theme repeated throughout Gilmore Girls: class, wealth, and keeping up appearances.
This episode's title pretty much sums up everything you need to know about the action for the next 42 minutes. Lorelai drops Rory off a school in cutoffs, a tie-dyed pink t-shirt, cowboy boots, and a long coat because...laundry day? Lorelai's mother, Emily, goes way overboard when it comes to buying Rory supplemental parts of her uniform, pissing Lorelai off when Emily reveals that she will also be buying the 16-year old a car for her birthday. Rory finds her new school overwhelming in its exacting demands.* The student body doesn't seem to warm to Rory one bit as she has clashes with a hyper type A girl and a popular boy who insists on calling her a "Mary"--a commentary on her innocence which doesn't really seem to phase Rory all that much.
Now that we've gotten all of that out of the way, let's talk a little more about the idea of prep school and class division in the episode. It becomes quite clear that Chilton is not a world in which Rory is necessary welcome. She is innocent, studious, and clearly an outsider because of those things. Interestingly, we do not yet see any real victimization of Rory for being less wealthy than the rest of the school aside from one of her classmates questioning where her old school was. So far, it is the adults who duke it out over whether "fitting in" is something worth striving for.
Rory seems to straddle a line between her grandparents' upper class indulgence and her mother's middle class values. Over and over we see that Lorelai wants her daughter to work for the things she has in life much in the same way that Lorelai has, while Rory's grandmother doesn't understand the problem with taking a little help to make the girl's life more pleasant. It is almost as though her grandmother 1) believes that Rory will not fit in to her new school and 2) only really knows how to relate to the girl through giving her the markers of that upper class life Emily leads.**
The question of taking help is an interesting one. The whole series so far (all two episodes of it), revolves around one question: when is it worth accepting help from someone if it goes against your principles? In the case of Rory's tuition, Lorelai can swallow her pride. When it comes to helping her daughter fit in at her new school, Lorelai is staunchly against accepting her mother's money.
I have no doubt that much of the show's conflict will arise from Rory attempting to fit in to a new place where she is the outsider even more so than she was at her other school. We're led to believe that at Stars Hollow she at least one close-knit friendship despite being a dreamy girl who is constantly reading.
One more thing to note. Lorelai is a mess. I suppose we're meant to believe that she's something of a sympathetic mess. I get the struggle of raising a teenage daughter on her own. That's not what I'm talking about. My complaint is that we're getting all of her characterization in kind of ridiculous ways. She talks too much when she's nervous! She doesn't have any clean clothes! She demands coffee from Luke in a way I think is supposed to be cute! And yet through all of this we know that she's meant to be more than competnent at her job. I hope that those things are not mutually exclusive. I'm a little tired of TV's, "This woman is strong as has it together professionally except her personal life is a mess because clearly she can't have it all," thing. At some point I hope that the show settles into letting the viewer pick up on the nuances of her character and trusts the audience to like her as we see her.
Book Nerd Moments
Oh so many it makes the book nerd in my shiver with delight. I want to be in Rory's English class at Chilton. Dickens (Great Expectations, Little Dorritt, A Tale of Two Cities), Tolstoy (Anna Karenina and War and Peace), George Sands, Balzac
Pop Culture References
"Oh ladies, what do I see? Naked girls? Keep those leotards on. This is not Brazil!” -Miss Patty (I love her so)
“Now walk smooth. That’s a new Harry Potter on your heads. If it should fall, Harry will die and there will be no more books.” – Miss Patty
“Excuse me. There’s a phone call for you. If I am to fetch you like a dog, I’d like a cookie and a raise.” –Michel
-This show seriously suffers from a lack of HD (I'm looking at you, opening credits). What is this world we used to live in?
-Back off about TV journalism, superior headmaster. Some of us do good work.
-Rory has a cute uniform. I never had a cute uniform (see first footnote).
*When I was in the 3rd grade, my parents had me go through the application process at Westridge School for Girls in Pasadena, CA (the options for middle school were slim in the Pasadena area at the time). I remember very clearly the entrance exam, multiple interviews, and essays I wrote. That's right, I wrote essays for a prep school at the age of seven (I wasn't with my age group, long story) as well as the extensive interview process for my parents. Not to disparage Westridge which is a wonderful school, but it bordered on crazy. I wound up being told I was too young to enter Westridge and to reapply the following year. My parents opted to move instead so that my sister and I could attend an excellent public school outside of the Pasadena school system. The struggle for good schools is real and ridiculous, and I sympathize with all of my friends who are currently trying to get their children into the best educational institutions available.
**In fairness, we have seen very little of Emily's interactions with Rory. Instead she has primarily been used as a foil for Lorelai. My hope that is Emily's characterization will deepen as the show goes on because right now it is very easy to brush her off as a cold rich lady who gets her way by throwing her money around and is in some ways attempting to buy her granddaughter's affection. From what I have been told about this show, the writing it too smart to continue down that path.